Tall Tales in Tallinn

Russian Around
G’day Gdańsk

Tallinn, the capital of Estonia, has a well-preserved mediaeval Old Town centre, with cobblestone lanes, gabled houses, historic buildings and turreted city walls. It is remarkable among the European cities we visited in that it was not destroyed during either of the world wars.

We entered the old town via an archway next to the squat Fat Margaret Tower (Paks Margareeta), so called because of its thick walls. It guarded the entrance to the town in medieval times, when the sea came much closer than it does today.

Nearby is a split black arch, called Broken Line, which is a memorial to 852 people who perished in 1992 when the Estonia passenger-and-car ferry sank during its Tallinn-Stockholm run.

The Old Town is divided into two parts (historically two separate feuding towns): the upper town (Toompea – the seat of government ruling Estonia); and the lower town, which was an autonomous Hanseatic trading centre. A remarkably intact mediaeval wall surrounds the two towns, which are themselves separated by another wall. The main street of the lower town, Pikk Street, is lined with former warehouses, and merchants guild halls.

Typical houses of old Tallinn, which were originally warehouses. Note the support for the old crane to hoist goods into the warehouse.

We had a morning hot chocolate in this lovely café.

Decorated panels above a doorway As if the Estonian language isn’t hard enough to read!Built in 1440, this house was used as a German merchants’ club for nearly 500 years

Town Hall Square has been a marketplace through the centuries, and is the focal point of the Old Town.

In one corner of the square is the still-operating pharmacy (Raeapteek) dating from 1422, which claims to to be Europe’s oldest.

An alligator suspended from the ceiling. Naturally.

The Church of the Holy Ghost (Pühavaimu Kirik) is a medieval church which retains its 14th century design. On its wall is a clock dating from 1633.

Love the fun street signs:

We saw life-sized dolls like this on the doorsteps of lots of shops.

We then climbed the steep, cobbled Lühike Jalg (Short Leg Lane) to the upper town, stopping on the way to browse in a few quality arts and craft shops. At the top is a grassy strip outside the wall that divides the two towns, offering some fine views over the red roofs of the lower town.

Tallinn City Wall

Not much view here but I just liked this pic.

Some of the walls & towers of the old town

Red rooftops & spires.There were more tour groups in Tallinn than we have seen previously on this tripThe reward for the climb is the elaborate Alexander Nevsky (Russian Orthodox) Cathedral.

It was built in 1900 near the end of two centuries when Estonia was ruled by the Russian Empire, to show the repressed Estonians and Germans who was boss. There was a funeral being conducted when we were there, but the tour groups (and us) were filing in and out regardless. There are no pews, so the congregation stands throughout the service. The singing was exquisite. It was bizarre to be in the church as a tourist while a funeral was taking place!

Across the square is Toompea Castle, fronted by an 18th-century Russian pink palace, which is the seat of Estonian government. The coat of arms of Tallin on the façade of Toompea CastleAt the rear of the castle is Pikk Hermann (Tall Hermann Tower), which is the tallest tower of the castle wall. From our guidebook: “This tallest tower of the castle wall is a powerful symbol here. For 50 years, while Estonian flags were hidden in cellars, the Soviet flag flew from Tall Hermann. As the USSR was unraveling, Estonians proudly and defiantly replaced the red Soviet flag here with their own black, white, and blue flag.”Lovely little park next to the castleThe Dome Church (Toomkirik), or St Mary’s Church, is a simple Northern European Gothic Church from the 13th century.On the walls of the church are hundreds of coats of arms of the wealthy German-speaking aristocracy.

A close-up view of one of the coats of arms

An elaborate memorial in the church.From there we wandered, or squeezed past tour groups, down cobbled lanes to two view points over the old lower town.

We then followed the old town wall down Pikk Jalg (Long Leg Lane) back through the Town Hall Square. On the way we found an exhibition that we had previously heard about, called Monet2Klimt, which was a multimedia presentation of the works of Monet, Van Gogh and Klimt, projected on wrap-around screens, and set to music. Sadly we only had time for Klimt and a bit of Van Gogh, before we reluctantly had to leave to make the last shuttle.

It was time to head out through the Viru Gate to meet the shuttle bus back to the ship.

Just before the Viru Gate, which leads out of the old town into new Tallinn, is row of stalls built against the inside of the town wall, called “Sweater Wall”. This is a colourful gauntlet of women selling (and knitting) knitwear of all types.

Back at the port we could see the relative sizes of our ship (which carries 930 passengers) and our neighbour (which carries 3900). We are enjoying the relatively small size of ours very much, both on board and in ports.

The Costa ship is almost 4 times larger than Viking Sea, though it doesn’t look it in this pic. 

This will be the last post until we get home. Too busy having fun!! But don’t worry, we haven’t fallen off the edge of the earth, I will update the blog very soon!

2 thoughts on “Tall Tales in Tallinn

  1. Looks great Shelley. Are you finding the time constraints on your stop overs a minus for the cruise?

    1. Thanks Cathy! The short visits are limiting, but the trade-off is getting to see lots of places in a short time. I find I prefer the smaller towns that you can get a feel for in a few hours without battling crowds and traffic of the big cities. We certainly don’t plan to go on cruises for all our travel.

Thanks for reading! If you have any questions or comments, here's the place to put them:

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.